Savannah scores professional hockey team as first tenant for new arena

Team name to be decided with a contest

click to enlarge FROM RIGHT: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan, and Alderman Nick Palumbo join in a ceremonial first hockey face-off at the Savannah Arena construction site on Jan. 27. - NICK ROBERTSON/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
FROM RIGHT: Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan, and Alderman Nick Palumbo join in a ceremonial first hockey face-off at the Savannah Arena construction site on Jan. 27.
Slap shots and hat tricks will get local hockey fans on their feet soon after the Savannah Arena is completed, according to Mayor Van Johnson’s Jan. 27 announcement that the city will soon be home to a new professional ice-hockey team.

Johnson joined other city leaders at the Savannah Arena construction site on Wednesday to announce the formation of the new team, which will be named based on the results of a contest. The team is the first official tenant at the Savannah Arena, which is scheduled to open in winter of 2022.

“Savannah is officially a hockey town now,” Johnson exclaimed at a press conference held amid the partially completed arena’s exposed girders and concrete slabs, while construction workers plugged away throughout the stories-tall framework towering over the city’s Canal District.

“As you can see, this is rapidly becoming reality,” Johnson said of the Savannah Arena, which is being built for $165 million with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funding. “This will serve as a gathering place, a meeting place, a fun place.”

Savannah’s ECHL hockey team will be owned by Roo Hockey, LLC, with the organization being established immediately and a permanent business office planned to open in the city in July, according to Roo Hockey CEO Andy Kaufmann.

“We are grateful to the ECHL Board of Governors for awarding us a new membership,” Kaufmann stated. “Savannah is a terrific sports town and we look forward to making it a fantastic hockey town.”

According to ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin, Savannah’s hockey team will be taking on regional competitors such as the Atlanta Gladiators, the South Carolina Stingrays, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and the Jacksonville Icemen.

“Jacksonville, you’re going down. Atlanta, you’re going down,” Johnson quipped of Savannah’s soon-to-be rival teams.

click to enlarge Savannah Mayor Van Johnson speaks during a Jan. 27 press conference at the Savannah Arena construction site. - NICK ROBERTSON/CONNECT SAVANNAH
Nick Robertson/Connect Savannah
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson speaks during a Jan. 27 press conference at the Savannah Arena construction site.
Savannah’s pro hockey team will be an official affiliate to the NHL and AHL, with plans to begin competing in October of 2022 and playing 36 regular-season home games, according to the team’s savannahprohockey.com website. The team is currently accepting deposits to reserve season tickets and for premium seats in its inaugural season.

Team management also announced that a “Good Neighbor” program will be established to work with Savannah’s nonprofit community groups to bring hockey-based educational opportunities for local youths.

The team is being established through a collaboration with the Oak View Group, the company hired by Savannah’s City Council to manage and operate the Savannah Arena. According to Oak View Group Chairman Peter Luukko, hockey will be only one of many attractions at the city’s newest major venue.

“You’re going to see Beyoncé here. You’re going to see Bon Jovi here,” Luukko said during the press conference. “Savannah’s new professional hockey team is the first in many terrific events and attractions we will bring to the new Savannah Arena.”

Luukko emphasized that Oak View Group would be developing and implementing new protocols at the Savannah Arena to establish systems to ensure pandemic safety during all events.

“We need to have a safe and sanitized environment,” Luukko said.

Details about the contest to name the hockey team will be announced soon, although Johnson proposed an option during the press conference.

“It’s going to be, ‘The Savannah City Council,’” Johnson declared to the nonplussed crowd, before immediately withdrawing the proposal. “It sounded good when we talked about it.”

Following the press conference, Johnson joined fellow City Council members Linda Wilder-Bryan and Nick Palumbo for a ceremonial first face-off at a goal set up by the edge of the construction site’s muddy rubble.

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